Another Snowshoe Trail
The Borjomi-Kagarauli National Park offers plenty of scenic hiking trails and walking routes. We had already trekked the snowshoe trail from Lakani, which turned out to be a spectacular walk through flower meadows with stunning vistas and a false alarm about bear tracks. For our next hike we had chosen another “snowshoe” trail, albeit this one was a linear route rather than a circuit. We decided to hike up into the mountains until the first ranger shelter and then return the same way back. These trails are shorter than the long distance hikes in the park, being aimed at the winter snow-shoers, but make excellent family hikes in the other seasons.
Starting the Hike from Atskuri
The start of the trail was listed on the map as Atskuri, however, we had trouble finding any signposts to the start this time. This was probably due to a building site just after a train crossing removing the markers but with some help from Google maps we soon discovered the way to the marked ranger station. We probably should have turned right after the train conductors hut and driven back along the dirt track parallel to the train tracks, heading back to Borjomi. However we had seen a parking spot, about three kilometers outside of Atskuri, below a large tree, where we parked the car and crossed the train tracks meeting this track towards the ranger station. Please be careful when crossing, trains do not pass very often but it is always advised to take extra care!
The Ranger Station
After a short pleasant walk along the track we reached the ranger station, which lay peacefully in a sunny spot next to the trail. Crossing through the gate we briefly glanced at the large scaled map and some other information about the hike before wandering on. A stray dog had joined our small group. He soon discovered something moving about in the grass, a small snake! We watched briefly as he toyed with it.
Keep an Eye Out For Markers
The trail meanders along a narrow cart track, past a deer enclosure and a tap where thirsty hikers can fill their bottles before or after a hike. A narrow path then turns off to the left, where a little bridge crosses the mountain stream running down the valley. Following the path it was a peaceful hike, through low pine and deciduous trees before joining the main ranger jeep track again, further along. After a few hundred meters the main trail turns off to the left, keep an eye out for any markers, although it cannot be easily missed.
Dip Below a Small Waterfall
We decided to walk along the stream for a bit longer as the valley was so pleasant, until we found a low waterfall with a pool, big enough for a splash in the cool, clear water. Jerome jumped at the occasion to cool off on another hot summer’s day. He did not stay in the water for long though, it was just too cold for him!
Refreshed, we returned to the turn off for the track and commenced our hike up the snowshoe trail. It literally was up for what felt like a long time too. We had to take breaks every now and then at the rather steep sections as the path climbed through the forest. Eventually it levelled out somewhat and we were able to take in the beauty of our surroundings. Although the pine forest was rather dense, the sunlight kept finding gaps to shine through and the mossy ground was dotted with mushrooms and even the odd summer flower.
Taking a Left Turn
About an hour after the turn off having climbed up over 600m, we reached a divider in the track, the blue trail heading to the right back down into the valley below, while the red and yellow tracks continued along the ridge to the left. Taking the left fork we were still hopeful that we would eventually reach the mountain shelter, although we would discover that the map possibly was not as detailed as expected and the hut was still some kilometers away. We continued to walk along the ridge rising steadily towards the tree line, according to other hikers we met coming from the opposite direction there was still some way to go before the shelter. With so many twists and turns between peaks on the ridge, not all marked clearly on the map it was not so easy to work out the distances.
Lunch on the Rocks
In the end, we could hear distant thunder – it pretty much thundered every afternoon during our stay in Borjomi but rarely rained long. Jerome started to get anxious but there were few clouds. We then decided to find a spot for lunch rather than pressing on to the shelter. Around the next twist in the trail a large rock in a glade seemed like the perfect place for it. Sadly the views along the way had been hidden mostly behind the trees but we did see plenty of butterflies, including a swallowtail.
After lunch we turned around heading back to the start of the snowshoe trail. Luckily the thunderstorms never reached us and we reached our car with dry clothes and shoes in the warm afternoon sunshine. Although the hike was not as spectacular as the previous one, we still enjoyed the scenery, especially the dip in the waterfalls and the clear mountain stream running alongside the track for the initial stretch of the hike, plus the verdant mossy forest glades. Some children might find the steep sections boring and tiring, I would therefore suggest to less experienced hikers to walk as far as the first turn off and then chase the waterfalls up the valley.
Finishing the Snowshoe Trail
Back at our car we chose to drive on to Atskuri once more to see the castle, followed by a dip with the locals in a remote hot spring with healing waters, where we happily soaked our tired legs after the “snowshoe” hike.
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